Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to participate in #ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform

The committee will:
On June 30 the ERRE Special Committee on Electoral Reform posted information about how to participate.  There's information on the main page, on the Participate page, in the News Release and in the June 29 minutes.  I have consolidated this information below.

If you are interested in presenting or providing evidence about the risks associated with Internet voting, and believe I could be of assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me.

There are several options for participating in the committee.

Submit a brief

Canadians who choose to submit a brief to the Committee must meet the following criteria/conditions:
Briefs may be sent to the Committee by email (ERRE@parl.gc.ca) or by using [this link] https://survey-sondage-hoc.parl.gc.ca/n/ERRESubmitBrief.aspx?c=en-CA&studyId=9011649&study=Committee%20Business

Once they are translated, briefs will be distributed to the Committee members and posted on the Committee’s website.

Request to appear before the committee

Requests to appear may be sent to the Committee by email (erre@parl.gc.ca) or by using [this link] https://survey-sondage-hoc.parl.gc.ca/n/ERRERequestToAppear.aspx?c=en-CA&studyId=9011649&study=Committee%20Business

UPDATE 2016-07-05: I recommend sending your submission by email.  The web form limits input to 1000 characters (characters, not words) and you will not receive a confirmation code or email confirmation.  ENDUPDATE

You will get at least ten minutes for opening remarks and (as you can see in the next section) you may get asked questions that were submitted over Twitter.

"Time for Opening Remarks and Questioning of Witnesses —That witnesses be given a minimum of 10 minutes or more, at the discretion of the Chair to make their opening statements; and that during the questioning of witnesses all members of the Committee be allocated equal time to pose questions in the following order: Liberal Party, Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, Bloc Québécois, Green Party, Liberal Party, Conservative Party, Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Party."

Tweet questions to the committee (during a meeting)

It appears they intend this to be used for live input of questions during meetings, not for general questions.  The use of two hashtags together rather than one is not optimal.  #QERREQ would have been better.  To query two hashtags together in Twitter search I think the best approach is to use #ERRE AND #Q

The use of Twitter alone is also an odd choice; it's a much more niche social media service for the general Canadian public than Facebook.

Submitting recommended witnesses

There does not appear to be a formal mechanism to suggest a witness, other than proposing yourself as a witness.  You can always email the committee members directly with suggestions I suppose.

UPDATE 2016-08-05: Minister Monsef indicates that witness recommendations can be submitted directly to the committee by emailing ERRE@parl.gc.ca (also see other ERRE contact info).  ENDUPDATE

Meetings and context

NOTE: The Committee must present its report to the House no later than December 1, 2016.

Reminder of remit:  identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting (see About - Mandate for details of principles that should apply).

Be aware that the vast majority of witnesses and discussion will be around various types of approaches for choosing representatives ("various voting systems") such as preferential voting and proportional representation.  Only a small amount of the committee's attention is likely to be available for discussing online voting.

UPDATE 2016-07-30: The committee has asked a lot more questions about online voting than I expected (so far to witnesses who are entirely non-technical).  ENDUPDATE

If you are interested in presenting or providing evidence about the risks associated with Internet voting, and believe I could be of assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me.

UPDATE 2016-07-06:

Conversations about electoral reform

Minister Monsef has announced additional resources in support of conversations about electoral reform.  The short link is Canada.ca/Democracy but I will also highlight individual resources
The potential dialogue topics do include online voting, but the learning materials do not explain these topics:

3. How do you feel about electronic voting? Why?
4. How do you feel about online voting? Why?
5. How do you feel about mandatory voting? Why?

Typically electronic voting means the use of voting machines of some type in the polling station.  These can range from mark-sense ballot counting (scanners) to touchscreen machines.  I will have to do a separate blog post to explain why electronic voting is not needed for and could be detrimental to Canadian federal elections.  In any case, it's interesting to see this raised as a possibility as I don't see it in the language of the committee mandate.  And I don't see how anyone who isn't an expert will know the distinction between electronic voting and online voting.

What the learning materials (Changing Canada's federal electoral system) say in their totality about the above topics at the moment:

How you vote

Today, most of us vote in person by pencil and paper, either on election day itself or in the advance polls in the days beforehand. Many people also use special ballots, which are mailed in. Introducing new technologies at the polls could pave the way for online voting in the future.

Who votes

Voting could be made compulsory, like in Australia.
Implicit in the language above is the idea of experimenting with electronic voting technology at the polls as a precursor to online voting, which I also don't see in the language of the committee mandate.

I don't want to minimize the huge amount of work it was to prepare all of these "how to" materials, but without a substantial amount of background material for context, it will be challenging to have informed discussions about online voting.

Democratic Institutions press release - Minister Monsef Announces Launch of Federal Electoral Reform Dialogue Guide, Tools and Resources - July 6, 2016 - also available from GC Newsroom


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